Graduations, weddings, a few odd birthdays and anniversaries, along with the end of school and the beginning of summer. I’ve attended four celebrations and gatherings during the last four days with another scheduled this weekend. At each event thoughtful hosts provide food and drink, and lots of it. Sweets and treats beckon at most celebratory events, while alcohol and other caloric beverages flow. Do you manage it well, or does the season trigger a slide down the slippery slope?
It’s easy to take a metabolic tumble during seasons of celebration, even with summer at hand and no place to hide. Here are a few recommendations for the party goers, and a couple more for the hosts.
FOR THE ATTENDEES:
1. Don’t arrive hungry if you suspect that only snacks and treats will be served or served first. Plan your meals or eat a higher protein snack before you arrive, so you won’t be tempted to work the room by sampling every sweet and savory temptation.
2. Seek out snacks that work for you. Look for whole foods (nuts, olives, fresh fruit or the vegetable tray), or the kind of hors d’oeuvres that offer a mix of protein and produce or more modest amount of refined starch, sugar and fat
3. Let a treat be a treat. Treats are no longer treats if you are eating them all the time. Sometimes it helps to have sweet treats one day and then clean it up. Re-stabilizing with delicious whole foods for a day or two– including adequate protein– can calm the metabolic seas.
4. Focus on the people and the event, while allowing food and drink it’s rightful place. Whether celebrating with friends and family or at a more formal event with guests you don’t know, allow food to sate your hunger without being an excuse to over indulge. Truly enjoying the event means taking enough care of yourself that you don’t harbor regrets later on.
FOR THE PARTY PLANNERS:
1. Plan food that works for all of your guests. Allow for options that offer delicious satisfaction, and at the same time don’t spell dietary disaster. Good appetizer ideas include nuts and seeds, fermented or pickled vegetables, seasoned olives, cut up fresh fruit and vegetables. Marinated salads like ceviche or calamari offer a great source of protein to quiet hunger pangs without excess sugar or starch. Miniature kabobs or crab cakes also do the trick.
2. Be sure to offer a variety of beverages, especially non caloric options like sparkling water, iced tea, and club soda. A beverage station offering chilled water with sliced lemons and mint is refreshing, easy on the environment, and appreciated by many guests.
3. Include side dishes that offer healthy options for all. Noah’s graduation featured a taco cart with grass fed carne asada, grilled chicken and mahi mahi. The caterers served the tacos with pinto beans and a range of grilled vegetables, cilantro, radishes and salsa. I prepared platters of fresh vegetables and wedges of watermelon. Make it easy to eat whole fresh foods.
DON’T FORGET DESSERT
4. Stage food so that you encourage eating well. You don’t have to have desserts on display before dinner is served. At Noah’s graduation, I put out trays of cookies and served cake well after most enjoyed their fill of protein and produce. It’s often easier to enjoy 1 or 2 cookies or a smaller serving of cake when you are not over hungry to begin with.
Food remains a rich medium that taps into our social and cultural roots. Take the opportunity to celebrate and enjoy food in it’s rightful place.